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Prof Lyn Wadley


Lyn Wadley is jointly Honorary Professor of Archaeology in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, and the Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. She directs a Wits-recognized programme called ACACIA (Ancient Cognition and Culture in Africa).  She taught archaeology in the Archaeology Department from 1982 until her retirement. She obtained her Masters degree from the University of Cape Town (1977) and her PhD from Wits (1986). The National Research Foundation has awarded her an A rating. She is married with an adult daughter and son.


Her speciality is the African Stone Age: Middle Stone Age (which lasted from approximately 300,000 to 25,000 years ago) and Later Stone Age (the last 25,000 years). She began her career researching social and ecological issues during the past 25,000 years of the Later Stone Age in southern Africa. Data for her interpretations were obtained from sites in Namibia and South Africa.  In particular, her Later Stone Age research centred on demographic mobility. She directed excavations at a suite of Holocene sites in the Magaliesberg, and subsequently spent eleven years excavating Rose Cottage Cave in the eastern Free State. Rose Cottage has a cultural sequence, beginning almost 100,000 years ago, with pulses of occupation until about 500 years ago. She is best known for her Middle Stone Age excavations in the rock shelter, Sibudu, KwaZulu-Natal, 1998 - 2011. This site has exceptional organic preservation. Final Middle Stone Age occupations of about 38,000 years ago are at the top of the sequence and the site has been excavated into deep layers with an age of approximately 77,000 years ago. The earliest occupations have not yet been reached. By the end of 2012, Sibudu was the subject of 72 peer-reviewed scientific papers, many of which are authored or co-authored by international collaborators. Amongst the novel data from the site is the oldest evidence for plant bedding and medicinal plant use in the world.

Lyn Wadley’s current research is dedicated to the cognition of people who lived in the Middle Stone Age. She has conducted many experiments in order to replicate activities observed in the Middle Stone Age. This work includes heat treatment of rocks, ochre and seeds, and hafting of stone tools with compound adhesives made from natural products like ochre and plant gum. Such replications enable interpretations of the cognitive abilities of people who used the various technologies.

Selected publications 2005-2009

Wadley, L. 2005. Putting ochre to the test: replication studies of adhesives that may have been used for hafting tools in the Middle Stone Age. Journal of Human Evolution 49:587–601.

Wadley, L. 2005. A typological study of the final Middle Stone Age stone tools from Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal. South African Archaeological Bulletin 60:1–13.

Wadley, L. & Whitelaw, G. (eds) 2006. Sibudu Cave: background to the excavations, stratigraphy and dating. Southern African Humanities 18 (1): 1–341.

Wadley, L. 2006. Partners in grime: results of multi-disciplinary archaeology at Sibudu Cave. Southern African Humanities 18:315–341.

Wadley, L. 2007. Announcing a Still Bay Industry at Sibudu Cave, Journal of Human Evolution 52: 681-689.

Wadley, L. & Lombard, M. 2007. Small things in perspective: the contribution of our blind tests to micro-residue studies on archaeological stone tools. Journal of Archaeological Science 34:1001-1010.

Backwell, L., d’Errico, F. & Wadley, L. 2008. Middle Stone Age bone tools from the Howiesons Poort layers, Sibudu Cave, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 1566-1580.

d’Errico, F., Vanhaeren, M. & Wadley, L. 2008. Possible shell beads from the Middle Stone Age of Sibudu Cave. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 2675-2685.

Jacobs, Z., Roberts, R.G., Galbraith, R.F., Deacon, H.J., Grün, R., Mackay, A., Mitchell, P.J., Vogelsang, R. & Wadley, L. 2008. Ages for the Middle Stone Age of Southern Africa: Implications for Human Behavior and Dispersal. Science 322, 31 October: 733-735.

Wadley, L. & Mohapi, M. 2008. A segment is not a monolith: evidence from the Howiesons Poort of Sibudu, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 2594-2605.

Wadley, L., Hodgskiss, T. & Grant, M. 2009. Implications for complex cognition from the hafting of tools with compound adhesives in the Middle Stone Age, South Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 106 (24): 9590-9594.

Goldberg, P., Miller, C.E., Schiegl, S., Ligouis, B., Berna, F., Conard, N.J. & Wadley, L. 2009. Bedding, hearths, and site maintenance in the Middle Stone Age of Sibudu Cave, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 1(2): 95-122.


Peer-reviewed papers and book chapters 2010-mid-2013

Wadley, L. 2010. Were snares and traps used in the Middle Stone Age and does it matter? A review and a case study from Sibudu, South Africa. Journal of Human Evolution: 58: 179–192.

Wadley, L. 2010. Compound-adhesive manufacture as a behavioral proxy for complex cognition in the Middle Stone Age. Current Anthropology 51, Supplement 1:S111-119.

Wadley, L. 2010. A taphonomic study of ochre demonstrates post-depositional color transformations. Journal of Taphonomy 8: 243-254.

Wadley, L. 2010. Cemented ash as a receptacle or work surface for ochre powder production at Sibudu, South Africa, 58,000 years ago. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 2397-2406.

Lombard, M., Wadley, L., Jacobs, Z., Mohapi, M. & Roberts, R.G. 2010. Still Bay and serrated points from Umhlatuzana Rock Shelter, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 1773-1784.

Wadley, L. 2010. The effect of organic preservation on behavioural interpretations at the South African Middle Stone Age sites of Rose Cottage and Sibudu.  In: K. V. Boyle, C. Gamble & O. Bar-Yosef (Ed.) The Upper Palaeolithic Revolution in Global Perspective: Essays in honour of Paul Mellars. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeology, pp. 51-59.

Wadley, L. & Kempson, H. 2011. A review of rock studies for archaeologists, and a preliminary analysis of dolerite and hornfels from the Sibudu area, KwaZulu-Natal. Southern African Humanities 23: 87-107.

Wadley, L., Sievers, C., Bamford, M., Goldberg, P., Berna, & Miller, C.  2011. Middle Stone Age bedding construction and settlement patterns at Sibudu, South Africa. Science 334: 1388-1391.

Wadley, L. 2011. Recognising complex cognition through compound adhesive manufacture in the Middle Stone Age. In: Henshilwood, C. and d’Errico, F. Homo symbolicus: The Dawn of Language, Imagination and Spirituality. John Benjamins, Amsterdam, pp. 97-109.

Wadley, L. 2012. Some combustion features at Sibudu, South Africa, between 65,000 and 58,000 years ago. Quaternary International 247: 341-349.

Wadley, L. 2012. Revisiting Later Stone Age collections from Big Elephant Shelter, Namibia. South African Archaeological Bulletin 67: 101-107.

Wadley, L. 2012. Sibudu Cave: recent archaeological work on the Middle Stone Age. In: Reynolds, S.C. & Gallagher, A. (eds) African Genesis: Perspectives on Hominin Evolution, pp. 531-553. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wadley, L. 2012. Two ‘moments in time’ during Middle Stone Age occupations of Sibudu, South Africa. Southern African Humanities 24: 79–97.

Lombard, M., Wadley, L., Deacon, J., Wurz, S., Parsons, I., Mohapi, M., Swart, J. & Mitchell, P. 2012. South African and Lesotho Stone Age sequence updated (I). South African Archaeological Bulletin 67: 123-144.

Bruch, A.A, Sievers, C. & Wadley, L. 2012. Quantification of climate and vegetation from southern African Middle Stone Age sites - an application using Late Pleistocene plant material from Sibudu, South Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews 45: 7-17.

Conard, N.J., Porraz, G. & Wadley, L. 2012. What is in a name? Characterising the post-Howiesons Poort at Sibudu. South African Archaeological Bulletin 67: 180-199.

D’Errico, F., L. Backwell, L. & Wadley, L. 2012. Identifying regional variability in Middle Stone Age bone technology: The case of Sibudu Cave. Journal of Archaeological Science 39: 2479-2495.

Cochrane, G.W.G., Doelman, T. & Wadley, L. 2013. Another Dating Revolution for Prehistoric Archaeology? Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 20: 42-60.

Wadley, L. 2013. Gender in the prehistory of sub-Saharan Africa. In: Bolger, D. (ed.) A Companion to Gender Prehistory, First Edition. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp. 313-332.

Wadley, L. 2013. Recognizing complex cognition through innovative technology in Stone Age and Palaeolithic Sites. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 23.

Wadley, L. 2013. MIS 4 and MIS 3 occupations in Sibudu, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. South African Archaeological Bulletin 68.


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